Groundhog Day revisited

by Wolf Pascoe on September 16, 2013

groundhog_dayPhil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?

Ralph: That about sums it up for me.

— Groundhog Day

 

Last night Nora and I watched Harold Ramis’s small miracle of a movie again. We’d seen it when it came out, never since. Hard to believe that was before Netflix, before the Web almost.

Perhaps you haven’t seen it? If you can, do not pass Go–order it now. Put it at the top of your queue.

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SURPRISE

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I thought I would remember everything about the movie. But actually, all I remembered was its pleasure and premise. From that, my brain had constructed a hologram. So watching again was a constant surprise–all the details were fresh.

“It’s like all you have left is a trailer,” Nora said. “And not even that.”

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PREMISE

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Every year, Phil (Bill Murray), a spoiled brat of a TV weatherman, must travel with his producer (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman from Philadelphia to Punxsutawney, PA. On the morning of February 2nd they tape a Groundhog Day segment that Phil detests doing.

On this particular February 2nd, it snows after the taping and Phil can’t leave town. Essentially, he’s got a day off. Next morning, Phil wakes and discovers it’s still February 2nd. He has to live the day over.

The next morning it’s February 2nd again. February 3rd never arrives. Phil is stuck re-living February 2nd for the whole movie, although each time he’s free to make different choices.

Everyone else in the movie is living the day as if for the first time–they assume Phil is too. Except he isn’t. He knows he’s been there before.

There’s no way out. Phil can’t kill himself (he tries), he can’t leave town–the storm has closed the roads. Actually there’s one way out. Phil can do the day right.

But he doesn’t know this.

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FREE

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Phil discovers he’s free to do anything–it’s all erased come the next day, except in his memory.

He screws up the video segment intentionally. No matter, he still has the job the next morning. He sucker punches a guy who irritates him–the guy’s back in the morning.

It goes on, presumably, for years. Phil figures out how to get laid, how to get money. He meets everyone in town, learns to play piano. He does everything he thinks he wants–that is to say, what the cynical, hurt, manipulative, self-centered part of him wants.

None of which works out.

Until finally he does what he really wants–that is to say what his deepest self wants. And essentially want he wants is to love. Which he does. Then he can go on.

Thematically Groundhog Day echoes It’s Wonderful Life, although the problem that needs solving is the opposite. Bill Murray’s character learns to give love; James Stewart’s character learns to let people love him. Which is sort of the same.

What a double feature.

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RANDOM DREAM

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Last night I had a dream that I’d wasted my life. There was nothing left to do. It was a feeling I’d gone around with yesterday—that I’d played my last card.

In the dream I wound up at a kids’ party. I watched them play. I wasn’t sure if I’d been invited.

I knew the woman hosting the party. I’d looked up to her when I was young, but she died bitter, disillusioned.

In the dream she said to me, “It’s random.”

Meaning, there’s nothing to do. There is no game. Just graze, follow your nose, don’t put anything on it.

Then, in the dream, I had the thought: I can do anything.

Buckminister Fuller tells the story of a low point in his life when he stood on the shore of Lake Michigan and contemplated drowning. Then he decided that if he was done living for himself, he could stick around and live for others.

Since my last post, I’d resolved to write nothing here that I couldn’t take some joy from. I was starting to think it wasn’t going to come, but this morning I couldn’t get Groundhog Day out of my mind.

I went to write about it in my journal and decided to leave it here.

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EXPRESS YOURSELF!

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Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Thatcher September 17, 2013 at 11:54 am

There are these posts of yours that shake me awake–alive–aware so that I sit here and reread, reread, thinking, feeling. Then I try to figure out how to say a proper thank you for the depth of your sharing. When I can’t find one, I tend to say I’ll come back later. But then I don’t. So this time I will settle for a thank you that’s not what I would give if the right words would come.

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Wolf Pascoe September 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

There is a certain amount of shame that goes with self-revelation. The form mine usually takes when writing here is “Enough with the first person singular pronoun already! Can’t you write about something other than yourself?” So reading this comment is my personal It’s a Wonderful Life moment. I guess I’ll keep at it awhile longer.

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Privilege of Parenting September 17, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Love that movie. Okay, two cents on the dream: dream as wish, thus, your unconscious wished to have the realization that you “wasted” your life SO that you could have an epiphany (that which we are conscious of does not become our fate) and you are cautioned not to judge your life (echoing “Wonderful Life”… thus do we need to see your life without you to see how much positive impact you have had amongst family, friends, patients, etc…. certainly you have had a great positive impact on me); subsequent to the increase in consciousness you find yourself at at child’s party (perhaps a birthday celebration?), thus the part of you who you once “looked up to” (the feminine ideal, the feeling aspect who suffered in secret?) but who “died” (i.e. your identification with this aspect) bitter and disillusioned has to die so that the joyous, loving, child-mind and communal “party” aspect can be not just born, but celebrated.

Is it random, or is it organized at a level beyond our current consciousness? Is intelligence knowing what to do, or is it taking feedback from our trials and tribulations and adjusting until we find ourselves liberated by, and into, love?

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Wolf Pascoe September 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

Into my dream journal go your two cents, Bruce, where I will ponder with my super brain.

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David September 19, 2013 at 10:46 am

I, too, watched this movie again and was struck by how much “flailing” he had to do before he could arrive at his soul’s doorstep, so to speak, and simply love and care authentically.

Murray, I understand, was into Gurdieff’s ideas and this movie is a wonderful adaptation of Ouspensky’s book, The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, which made quite an impression on me as a young man. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Life_of_Ivan_Osokin

I like the way you’ve juxtaposed It’s A Wonderful Life with this story and described the full circle of loving—the ability to give and receive it—two tracts of work.

As usual, thank you, Wolf, for your perspective. Breath of fresh air.

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Wolf Pascoe September 19, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Flailing, yes. A thing I do so well.

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Jim Parkevich September 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Hi Wolf,
The other evening, I looked out the back, deck glass doors..I did a double take..The moon, “The Harvest Moon” was so bright in the cloudless skies, the backyard was like early morning in a rising sun. I opened the door and stepped out. Lines where the lawnmower worked could be seen quite clearly. Little critters from the wooded ravine were all over the yard. And I made a plan. That I would take care of myself so I could share the next “Harvest Moon” with my grand daughter. Somehow, I find the majesty of our mother earth, providing the ultimate love and soothing hand. For me, it seems easier to take in the grandeur of a rising sun over the Grand Canyon, than to analyze whether I can sort out some cosmic plan about my happiness.. I hope this does not sound conceited, I am just on a different path. Although, I enjoy your insight and soul searching a great deal.
P.S. Best to Nick and Nora

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Wolf Pascoe September 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I have been committed to the Fresno Home for the Thoughtful where they still let me do this blog once in while, as part of my withdrawal program.

Drove to work before dawn yesterday and there was that same, glorious moon. Breathtaking!

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D. A. Wolf September 21, 2013 at 5:31 am

That is a movie I have always found surprisingly valuable. A reminder of how much small changes can impact. There is optimism in that. As there is, fundamentally, in your writing that reminds us to find what can be fresh in ourselves and our approach. Live for others. Yes, but live well for them, in meaningful ways.

I needed this right now. Thank you.
D. A. Wolf recently posted..Navel Gazing

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Wolf Pascoe September 21, 2013 at 8:54 am

And here, in another context and in another way, is Louis C. K. , actually saying pretty much the same thing, or a related thing, sort of.

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Barbara September 22, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I’ve seen that movie a dozen times. I never tire of it and its message. I love your analysis of it here…and especially this: “…he decided that if he was done living for himself, he could stick around and live for others.” I’m glad you decided to share this with us, and not just put it in your journal!
Barbara recently posted..After every storm the sun will smile…

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Wolf Pascoe September 23, 2013 at 3:36 am

Thanks, Barbara. Watching this movie a dozen times is its own form of enlightenment.

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The Exception September 27, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I saw this movie may many years ago and have loved it from that first viewing. Each time there is something to learn; something to take away. I have introduced it to my daughter too – and now I feel the need to watch it again. Thank you for sharing this Wolf. There are times when i wish I could do a day over and over again to get it right; to actually be all that I am. Unfortunately, we get each day only once so living fully is the goal.

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Wolf Pascoe September 28, 2013 at 8:45 am

I like it that we do get more than one day. And never knowing which will be the last, seems like living each fully is the best plan.

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Kristen @ Motherese October 2, 2013 at 7:22 am

I have seen that movie only once and that was years ago. My husband references it frequently though and it seems like now is the time for another viewing.

As you may know, I am one for big goals and grand plans. Although I tend to be an anxious person, I don’t spend much time thinking about death or the end of my days. But when I find myself struggling to get out of a stuck spot, it is always love – for my husband and my kids and feeling loved by them – that pulls me loose. It’s never, ultimately, the projects. Love is my only real project too, I suppose.

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Wolf Pascoe October 2, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Love is my only real project too, I suppose.

Is there anything more to be said?

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